Whether I have students walk into my martial arts school, or administration interviewing me on integrating a new defensive program to their officers, everyone always wants to know one main answer to a question: How long will it take to teach someone how to gain a skill?
Therefore, what I’d like to do is dive deep into this question, and dissect what makes a successful program as far as judging it on making the learning process as quick as possible.
It might be overwhelming to think of all the different situations and scenarios you could possibly be in if ever attacked. Most of us already know the problem with many “self-defense” programs is that they contain a huge amount of information, which is useless to the average person. Therefore, in addition to being overwhelmed by too much information, the information is usually impractical because of two main reasons:
The first is that the majority of tactics are not effective against different people (with various sizes, skill levels and even pain tolerances), and in different environments (i.e. can a tactic work outside on wet pavement, just as much as in a small dark room with a lot of debris).
Secondly the majority of tactics are not simple.
They are not simple to learn (needing a small and limited time to absorb the information), to train (needing limited amount of equipment or skilled trainers) or to maintain (needing minimal amount of upkeep to sustain the minimal level of skill). Many of them also are designed around fine motor movements, which are less successful under stress in real life altercations.
When I was discussing the needs of a federal law enforcement agency with agents, their necessities were incongruent with how most tactic programs are taught and what they contain. I’m not saying that tactics taught in these past programs were completely useless, but they did not meet the needs of being effective and simple.
Why is this important?
Here is the obvious which I explained to the agents, which is also true for the civilian population: Primarily you need effective techniques to reach successful and desired outcomes in all physical situations. Next, the more simplistic the techniques and tactics are, the more successful in retaining and implementing them will be.
But there is also the indirect, not so obvious reason. It is so important to focus on effective and simple moves: By solely focusing on the effective tactics, learning, training and review time is greatly cut down, decreasing the amount of information available to be taught. Being “overwhelmed” by the sheer amount of information is unlikely, because the amount of information is minimal.
Secondly, keeping it simple increases the chances of successfully learning, training and reviewing the information. More success keeps practioners of any skill level engaged longer, increases their confidence and ultimately leads to safer implementation out in the field.
I could continue with a long explaination on how some tactics do not line up with the needs of an organization, however, I’ll spare you from my preaching. What is needed from any person’s perspective is a “test” of sorts, which any self-defense program should be examined by: Limited time to train the average person in the curriculum.
In other words, by limiting the time a person has to learn a program, one must automatically have an effective and simple program. If you limit the time to learn something, only the most essential information can be taught, and only the best training methods can be used to create successful students and instructors.
In order to deal with the variety of threats, situations and scenarios, it is imperative to minimize the amount of techniques taught. Even if we were not working with the limited amount of time we do have to train trainers, and the students, etc., it is still best to train with less. Less techniques, less drills, less scenarios.
Your goals are not to focus on a multitude of techniques, but literally one or two to accomplish a single objective. Learning from the lessons of numerous defensive programs, and minimizing the amount of information accomplishes the following: It focuses the energy of the participants to only the most effective techniques, drills and principles and it keeps the structure simple to learn, train and maintain.
We’ve come full circle aligning the needs of the person learning to the techniques of the course. This congruency keeps everything in a practical form, while also addressing the limited time most people have to learn the information.
If you keep these goals and objectives in mind, in any kind of training, be it self-defense or some other kind of skill, the positive experience with successful integration leads to faster learning and better levels of retaining the information.